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We appear to have a hung parliament


While I'm disappointed by the evaporation of the Clegg effect, I'm really hoping that neither the Conservatives nor Labour have an outright majority (in the Conservative's case, a narrow enough shortfall to resort to the same pact with the Democratic Unionists that kept John Major's government running through its twilight years).

Let them learn how to negotiate again. And? A side-order of electoral reform, please.

(You might have guessed by now that I'm not an instinctive fan of doctrinaire ideologues and tightly whipped party discipline.)



Except that the Tories are going to have to suck up to the unionists, whose price will be the stacking of the deck in Northern Ireland, which will put the whole peace process there at risk.


I don't think the Tories will form any strong government with the DUPs. Unless the LibDems and the Tories get together happily, we'll have another election before this time next year.

It's not hugely surprising, I think. Voting in this election was like choosing whether to have your left or right testicle cut off. Technically, you have a choice but whatever the outcome you're going to be in a lot of pain and extremely pissed off.

The major thing that could come from this election could be an English devolution to match the Scots and Welsh, with the UK moving in the direction of a more federated structure. It's clear form the distributions that England wants a Tory government and Scotland wants a Labour government. The current system is not fair to anyone.


I second that motion for having politicians at each others throats... I mean cooperating. For all talk of modernisation, you'd never find a successful enterprise being run as badly as the UK parliament; time for MPs to go on an efficiency drive and find some common ground. In the meantime we can look to having the Queen nominally in-charge for a while.

While the Tories remain short of a 300 set total there remains a chance of a sensible coalition, but sadly, and arrogantly, the Tories believe in the final score above all else, which would be okay, but this is democracy and not the wall game. So that will be a re-run in the Autumn, and Bob help us all.


What's the rationality behind Clegg's announcement that LibDem says the Convervatives should form a government - no word about coalition treaties, deals, etc.? I'm curious, because that would be the "normal way" of things in a prop. system.


Till: if Clegg's saying that, he's very, very, smart.

The Tories are committed to making cuts in public spending. As Mervyn King at the Bank of England said a month ago, "whoever wins this election will be out of power for a generation," due to the savagery of the necessary cuts. Cameron can form a minority government (if Labour and the LibDems permit him to do so), and will then be responsible for the highly unpopular cuts ... meanwhile, the opposition can force an election at any time they choose by organizing a Vote of No Confidence in his (minority) government.


The major thing that could come from this election could be an English devolution to match the Scots and Welsh, with the UK moving in the direction of a more federated structure.

The trouble with that is that England is too large for that. It would need to be split into at least 7 or 8 regions. On the whole, I think federalising the UK is a good option and, for those who care about these things, could hold the Union together. England is so large, that the perception that Westminster is the English Parliament is a fair one.

To put things in perspective, the Scottish Parliament is less powerful than the German state legislatures, even though Scotland has a separate legal system with a different basis. The Welsh Assembly is weaker still.



I'm not an instinctive fan of doctrinaire ideologues and tightly whipped party discipline.

Well, German experience suggests that proportional voting doesn't address that problem either. So, what is your suggestion for reform?


Depending on how much of an appetite the various parties (and the electorate) have for another election, there is the danger that Cameron may find he can govern as if he had a majority, much as Stephen Fucking Harper has in Canada for the past couple of years. However, I suspect UK party finances are in better shape than their Canadian counterparts, and I'm sure both Clegg and Brown (or whoever succeeds him following the inevitable Night of the Long Knives that follows an electoral defeat) will have more spine (and credibility) that Iggy does.


@tp1024 Germany has a party list based electoral system, which will tend to party identity as more important than constituency representation (or individual conscience) even more than our benighted whipped FPTP in the UK.


Great Cthulhu! That's a brain-dead bit of Google account integration; no name, no avatar: lovely ;)

Pete Jordan


Germany has a mixed system: half of the seats are first-past-the-post-seats, half of the seats are party-list-seats, with calculating seats one in the first half against seats in the second half. The reasons for the strong relevance of party identity thus cannot be found only in the party lists, but also in things like how electoral money is given to candidates etc.



IMHO, Clegg has several things to think about.

If he allies with Labour, then all the accusations of "Vote Lib, get Lab" will have been proven; the LibDems damage themselves for the next election.

If he stays out of any coalitions, and minority government fails, the LibDems can use the lessons they learned this time around in the election. Any second election is likely to result in Labour infighting and disagreement (not to mention shortage of Labour party funds); they might even end up in second place in terms of votes cast, thus demonstrating inequity in the voting system (because there's no chance they'll overtake them in numbers of seats).

If he stays out of any coalitions, and minority government goes ahead, the LibDems can demonstrate an impact on any legislative activity in Parliament - "see, a vote for us isn't wasted". The fear of a minority government is reduced, and the arguments against voting reform reduce.

From here, it's a no-brainer.


The Lib Dems (and the Greens) favour the Single Transferable Vote system, which is less prone than the party list system to this problem. It's not perfect - by Arrow's Theorem, no voting system can be - but it sounds pretty good to me. I'd like some more details on the proposed implementation, though - according to Wikipedia, it only guarantees proportionality if you treat the whole country as one big constituency.

Labour seems keen on the Alternative Vote system, which is a special case of STV, and suffers from some extra problems.


@1 Not necessarily. No one in the North was impressed by Cameron's Paxman interview where he promised to make cuts in the province and the DUP were no exception. I'd wager that if anyone, the DUP would (just) prefer to work with Labour.Oh and the loss of Peter Robinson in East Belfast is a huge blow to their ability to act with any collective coherence. It's just possible that the four Sinn Fein MPs could be the fulcrum for any Lab/Lib coalition in which case things will get very intense very quickly. Brown's making a statement in a few minutes, this should clarify things a little.


Ha. Remember I said I was believing the Lib Dems when they said the Tories could not win in Watford?

The Tories won in Watford, about 1500 ahead of the Lib Dems, Labour some way behind. A more honest approach from the Lib Dems might have won them the seat on tactical votes from people like me.


If I've got this right, STV means I end up in a constituency with several MPs, as with the European Parliament elections.

Alternative Vote is essentially the system used for the Hugo Awards, and an MP is still the sole representative of a constituency.

In the General Election, I had a choice of five candidates, one from each of five parties. One got elected, and if something pisses me off enough, I can contact him.

In last year's European Election I got 6 representatives, one from each of those five parties, and an "Independent". Which is worth complaining to? I rather doubt that complaining to anti-Europeans and Racists will be much use.

But that's why I prefer the Alternative Vote proposal. It doesn't throw out that personal connection.


Good luck with your "hung" parliament! Over here in Canada, we have had such a situation for a while...and it really sucks, because the opposition parties have no balls. Thus, it's just like having a Conservative majority government, since nothing has been negotiated. All the Conservative party has to do is threaten to make something a confidence matter...and the Liberals, Bloc and New Democrats back down.

I can only hope your opposition parties have the guts to hold whoever's in charge's feet to the fire where needed!

ttyl Farrell


Now Cameron and Clegg are going to "negotiate" tonight... Cameron's opening offer this afternoon sounded like Conservatiev policies with a few LD frills - I hope (but doubt) Clegg has the backbone not to accept this.


Clegg doesn't get to decide alone. He'll need to get the backing of the Parliamentary Party and the Federal Executive (like Labour's NEC) first. There's a fault line in the Lib Dems between the broadly anti-Labour market liberals like Clegg and the broadly anti-Tory social liberals who form perhaps half the parliamentary party and comfortably over half the activist base. He needs to tread carefully lest the party splits.


Incidentally, here in Scotland the final vote breakdown looks like this:

Labour: 42% SNP: 19.9% Liberal Democrats: 18.9% Conservative: 16.7%

(Others all scored 0.7% or less.)

I am amused to note that the Christian Party scored 835 votes and were trounced by a nearly 4:1 margin by the Scottish Socialist Party, and that the Greens got twice as many votes as the BNP and nearly beat the UKIP into fifth place.

Also, only 1 in 250 people voted BNP.


Finally, given that all the results are in (except for one constituency -- delayed by a candidate's death, but it's a secure Conservative seat), and to quote a friend: "the only two-party coalitions that work are Conservative + LibDem (364 MPs -- pretty likely end result) or Conservative + Labour (565 MPs -- essentially a government of national unity, and not very likely)."


A hung parliament is not the worst thing that could happen to UK. I hear some people would prefer it drawn and quartered.

I am neither an UK citizen nor living in Britain, but I have friends who do, plus a rather peculiar interest in British society. I know that some people over there see this as the end of the world, but for me it's a sign of normalcy. When your own coalition partners do not hesitate to capitalize on your mistakes, you tend not to make them. The negative effect is a chronic sort of indecision, but ironically that might happen to a lesser extent in Britain, since politicians are better perceived if they pose as "men of action".

That being said, I find it hilarious that Scotland produced 60 Labour MPs. You must really HATE Tories over there.


I find it hilarious that Scotland produced 60 Labour MPs. You must really HATE Tories over there.

You don't say?


But apparently Labour and the Liberal Democrats (plus SDLP, Alliance and the independent who are under their whips) pool at 620, and Plaid Cymru already suggested they would be willing to join? That makes 623, which is enough for a majority in a Sinn Fein-less parliament of 645?


Ooops, that's of course 320 and 323 respectively.


Do not underestimate that half of the LibDem's DNA which is inherited from the former SDP, which in turn was established by the Gang of Four after they left Labour in 1980/81. The LibDems and Labour may both be parties of the left, but there's bad blood between them going back a generation (and longer, if you count the post-1923 electoral reform). Also: some of Labour's flagship policies and programs are reflected in LibDem manifesto committments to destroy them -- e.g. the National Identity Register.


PhilD: It's just possible that the four Sinn Fein MPs could be the fulcrum for any Lab/Lib coalition in which case things will get very intense very quickly.

Surely that would require Sinn Fein to actually take their seats at Westminster which unless my understanding of Irish politics is very, very wrong, is slightly less likely than Peter Robinson reacting to his defeat by embracing Catholicism!


Democracy has had it's chance, it's time to put the Judges in power.

And I mean the ones with the helmets and the talking bikes, not the ones with the silly white wigs.

You know it makes sense.


Sorry to interrupt the politics. I've just spotted that Amazon now have a picture of the UK paperback "Fuller Memorandum". I'd been waiting to see what it looked like, and I'm dismayed that the cover looks MUCH better than the US hardback which I have on order (though unless my eyesight is failing - and I had it tested yesterday before I voted - they've changed the title on the cover to TF "Memorandam").


The counter to all this hung parliament nonsense is that Labour actually did rather well at local level with plus 249 councillors (> 10% increase)and control of 10 extra councils. Tories and LibDems lost some, but the big losers were the minority parties - especially gratifying to see that with 125 of 164 councils declared, the BNP (minus 22, only 14 remain), UKIP (minus 5, 7 remain) and Respect (minus 3, none) got truly hammered. Not well covered on the state media (the bbc), but there if you look.

Compared to recent local elections since at least '97 in England, where the Tories have been gaining ground, this will be some comfort to Labour, and will help them to rebuild their "base".

Locally, my LibDem sitting MP was returned in this "tory target" with an increased majority and the Tories also lost half their seats on the council to the LibDems as well. Nice.


Charlie or someone,

How about a short rundown of the UK parties in terms that Americans(USA) can identify with?


How about a short rundown of the UK parties in terms that Americans(USA) can identify with?

Sure. We have socialists, socialists, socialists, more socialists, and left-wing Democrats (the Conservatives). Plus a couple of unvarnished Nazis (the BNP) but they got their asses kicked.

Anyone want to go into more detail ...?


The "Conservatives" are the equivalent of US left-wing Democrats? That's so deeply confusing to me.

Mind you, I really mostly only care from the perspective of reading your blog -- I have enough trouble with US politics, I don't need to start hating more people in other countries because of their politics -- unless you start putting this stuff in books. pause Please don't put this stuff in your books.


We also have UKIP, who are pretty much Tea Party. And got their asses kicked. Am I above making a joke about crashing and burning? No, I don't think I am.

Scots Nats and Welsh Nats are socialists, of course. The subtleties - although that may not be quite the word - of Northern Irish politics are not understood by anyone outside the province.


@6: In what way is the Scottish Parliament weaker than the lander? It passes primary legislation, covering wide areas of both civil and criminal law, it has complete control of education, justice, policing, agriculture & fisheries, health service, environment, and parts of transport. Its only real lack of power is fiscal.

Seems to me that they are, in fact, very similar.


Coalitions between parties that usually detest each other can be surprisingly effective. Labour and Plaid Cymru have been in coalition in the Welsh Assembly now for three years, they've followed a carefully worked out programme of government and it's all been efficient and mostly harmonious.

(For those not familiar with Welsh politics, the loathing the Welsh Labour Party has for "the nationalists" exceeds even that they hold for the Tories).



Well, then think about how confusing it is for a German to have a government that supports a US government whose most respected politicians politics, if you tried to run them through the Bundestag, would be perfectly indistinguishable from those of our run-off-the-mill neo-nazi scum. (If you translated it into German and replaced "American" with "Deutsch".)

The current situation is in fact only slightly less so than that under GWB. (That's not because there is no difference between Obama and GWB, but because the difference between US and German politics is that much larger.)


Off-topic: are you by some chance behind the high frequency trading related meltdown on the Wall Street yesterday? Any chance of a book or at least a story story about it?


I've noticed how commentators act like this was a failure of the Liberal Democrats. Well it might have been, but it was a bigger failure for democracy.

From 2005, The Liberal Dems went up 1% and lost 6 seats, the Conservatives went up 3.8% and won 113 seats. Labour only won 6% more of the vote than the Liberal Dems, but won 201 more seats. The Conservatives won 7.1% more of the vote than Labour, but only won 48 more seats. How is this even remotely democratic? Is the idea that it meets the needs of local constituencies more? If that was really the intention... couldn't you just have stronger local governments, instead of screwing up the national one?

Also why did the Liberal Democrats do so much more poorly than expected with their vote percentage? Was it really because people actually read their manifesto and decided they didn't like them? Or was it because it was a close election and they didn't want to let Labour or The Conservatives to win? If so, how high would the Liberal Democrats vote have been with simple preference voting? Indeed, how much would this increase the vote for minor parties?

How many marginals did the Conservatives and Labour win without 50% of the vote that they wouldn't have with preference voting? If they beat the Liberal Democrats by a couple hundred of votes somewhere, and Labour has a couple thousand... do those people really want a conservative MP?

This didn't make an argument for a Conservative government anymore than the 2008 Canadian election did. Like that election, all it did was make another resounding argument for electoral reform.


@32: Since for the most they aren't really socialists... perhaps it would be better to suggest that there is basically nothing in the Liberal Democrats platform that Ralph Nader would object to?

Also the Conservative Party is probably more anti-immigrant, from what I can tell, than left wing Democrats. So it isn't entirely clear cut, but basically your evaluation seems spot on.


It's a bit more complicated than Charlie's summary suggests, but it's not far off. In terms of their broad position on what should be provided for by the state and funded by taxation, and what should be left for individuals to pay for from out of their own income, the British Conservatives are difficult to tell apart from the left-leaning American Democrats. And the British Labour party are difficult to tell apart from German Christian Democrats or French Conservatives.

By contrast, on cultural/social issues, I suspect a left-leaning US democrat would find the British Conservative party a pretty strange place to be, although certainly less so than the US Republican party.


But that's why I prefer the Alternative Vote proposal. It doesn't throw out that personal connection.

Neither does NZ-style MMP (which I understand they use in Scotland as well). You have a local constituency MP regardless, plus fairness through the list.


It was a Whig Chancellor of the Excequer who said, in the late Nineteenth Century, "We are all socialists now". (A quick google shows that it was Sir William Vernon Harcourt on introducing death duties.)

So, yeah, pretty much. The Tories have lost their toryness since then and just become confused (especially since Thatcher's expulsion of the wets), but you could argue that that started with Disraeli, or even Peel.


I don't know the details myself - I'm relying on German political wonks among my friends.



Surely that would require Sinn Fein to actually take their seats at Westminster which unless my understanding of Irish politics is very, very wrong, is slightly less likely than Peter Robinson reacting to his defeat by embracing Catholicism!

Spot on. Sinn Fein are abstentionist with regards to Westminister. They will not be taking up their seats in this election.


I'm a middle-of-the-road centrist, liberal, American Democrat - not far from Obama, really.

I'd say there are differences in common across the pond and even historically, between liberals and conservatives.

o) liberals are more interested in improving the lot and rights of the common people and poor. o) We like to expand the middle class o) our patronage is aimed at helping those in trouble and the low-income.

o) conservatives want to help the lot and rights of the aristocrats or rich, often at the expense of the peasantry we like to boost. o) conservatives like to spread patronage to elites and old-fashioned war. o) conservative socialism is as least as much GOVERNMENT war spending instead of social spending.

Of course, the associations between parties and liberals and conservatives are ever-changing. The now-conservative Republican Party got its start by a liberal man who gave rights to both slaves and small settlers This post comes at the moment when IMHO conservative leadership of what CLAIMED to be a liberal party was turfed out.


Jon @46. Whatever you say about Margaret Thatcher (and who doesn't) - the epitome of successful Conservative Prime Ministers in the last 50 years - it's hard to deny that her aims were to expand the middle classes.

And a lot of the policies of the outgoing Labour Administration seemed designed to make the rich richer rather than the opposite (they certainly succeeded in widening the goals between the rich and poor, whatever their aims).

Me, I consider myself a "wet" (UK) Tory, and I certainly find myself more comfortable with the current US president than his predecessor. That might just be that he appears to be a man with a teaspoon of humanity and a working brain of course.

We over here certainly consider most of the right of mainstream American politics to be completely bonkers and rather frightening.


It can be so much easier just to be an anarchist, sometimes.


It takes, on average, about 46 000 votes to elect one MP. (Divide number of votes cast by number of seats ) But the distribution of seats is anything but that. The Lem-O-Crat vote went UP and their number of seats went DOWN. This is emphatically not democracy.

Actual figures: Con: 306 Lab: 258 Lib: 57 SNP: 6 Plaid C: 3 Others: 19

But, at 46 000 per MP: (rounded - ish) Con: 232 Lab: 187 Lib: 148 DUP: 3 SNP: 11 Plaid: 3 - 4 SDLP: 2 Green: 6 UKIP: 20 BNP: 12 Sinn F: 4 etc ....

Which gives a very very different picture, does it not?


It would seem from this end of the world that the UK could benefit from adopting a preferential voting system as used in Australian elections (both state and federal). Minor parties would get some chance for representation, the big parties would benefit from a more accurate evaluation of the voters view of its candidates and the chances of the present situation over there (a hung parliament) would be considerably lessened.

Worth a try, anyway..


The problem with trying to get electoral reform on the agenda is that the party with the most seats is the party least likely to welcome the change! It's funny how the nuLab champagne socialists ("The working class can kiss my arse, I've got the foreman's job at last!") started to want to talk about electoral reform when they saw the writing on the wall too. I'd say the only chance for PR would be for the LibDems to team up with the nuLab shysters (under someone other than Brown!) and push PR through for an autumn re-run of the election.

That's not going to happen.


Labour have had reform of the voting system on their manifesto ever since 1997, including this year. They have not been able to agree a form of AV or PR to include in a referendum (and it's true they have never regarded it as a priority), but they're not just grabbing at it out of desperation - it's the Tories who are committed to FPTP. See the Jenkins Commission.


How about a short rundown of the UK parties in terms that Americans(USA) can identify with?

This page attempts to place the parties on a two-dimensional left/right, authoritarian/libertarian grid. Take with the usual pinch of salt, but it may help a bit. A corresponding American grid would have the left/right zero line shifted a long way to the right, and might have the authoritarian/libertarian zero line a bit lower down - politicians in this country are a lot less state-phobic than in yours, in their rhetoric at least, and the defenders of civil liberties are (AFAICT) less able to make their voices heard - though again, I'm talking about rhetoric rather than substance, I think we're pretty close on the substance when it comes to civil liberties and/or their absence.

Note that (again, AFAICT) British political discourse is unusually right-wing by European standards.


Was there a special breeding programme for the middle classes in the 1980s? I remember she consistently discouraged the working classes from breeding, so a parallel encouragement of the allegedly respectable would make sense.

Or perhaps you are confusing the terms "class" (immutable. I will always be working class, however much money I have, and Charlie will always be middle class), with "income". In that case, you will have to clarify how on earth putting formerly working people into poverty is "expanding the middle classes". Did Thatcher somehow shit on the upper classes too, reducing their circumstances to those of middle income groups?


I took one of those political quizz things and found out that I should be voting SDLP (after I emigrate to Scotland of course :) [almost 4 down and almost 6 to the left on the axes, or possibly the other way round.] I know these things are only for your finer, aspirational political soul because I have been voting Democrat (not Green or Ralph Nader) my entire life without too much qualm. Is this reality versus ideal? Or sell out versus virtue?



You can't vote for the SDLP in Scotland, it's a Northern Irish party.


I was using the shorthand the original poster used and following on to that. He said that liberals like to expand the middle classes. Now if that's a contradiction in your terms, then he's as wrong as I am. If not, I'd argue that things like selling off council housing and expanding share ownership could be said to be moving several middle class attributes to a wider section of society.

Many would argue - with some justification - that the longer term effects of both have been disastrous. Others would argue that they were done just to stuff the poor. I actually don't think they were, but arguing about motives from back then seems a bit pointless.



Oh, come off it. Class is in no way, shape or form immutable. Certainly, the environment you were raised in will shape you, but people's attitudes, politics, and even accents are a lot more flexible than they're often made out to be.

The class system can be a useful model to understand a wide range of social phenomena, but it always grossly underemphasises social mobility.


I disagree. Having the trappings of the middle classes does not change my class any more than putting on blackface would give me recent African ancestry.

The social mobility I have has come about simply because, once upon a time, there were these things called "student grants". As access to higher education for poorer people goes away again, we'll find that mobility disappearing.


Interesting article on the impact of proportional representation in New Zealand

I'd overlooked the increased responsibility towards voters due to the nature of post election horse trading.


Are you referring to class immutability in a British sense? Over here on the left side of the pond, class seems more prominently tied to one's income and expenses, and only to a much smaller extent to one's bearing.


I'm a center-left Democrat, and based on questionnaires, I'm a bit to the left of the Liberal-Democrats in the UK. The UK Conservatives are more like the "Blue Dog" Democrats. (The "Blue Dogs" hold conservative districts taken from the Republicans. They are how we got the current Democratic majority.) But where they really fit is in the ideological gap between the Democratic and Republican parties. The place where there used to be liberal Republicans.

Admittedly, mapping between the parties in the different countries is not simple. For example, the left wing Democrats and the Tories both support nationalized health care. But that doesn't really mean they are in the same place ideologically. In the US, nationalized health care is a radical idea, and the left wing Democrats are trying to make it happen (they still are). In the UK, nationalize health care has been around for generations now. And I don't get the impression that the Tories are the NHS biggest supporters. We could go over other things such as tax policy, education, environment, defence, and I think in each case the Tories line up better with the right wing "Blue Dog" Democrats, or the "not totally batshit insane" moderate Republicans, or in the gap inbetween. This is also supported by the Tories running as "compassionate Conservatives" which is straight out of the George W. Bush speechbook. (I was really stunned to see that. Nobody in the US is going to be able to use that phrase for years.)



You have to bear in mind the effect of history (ie "how we got here"). The Tories didn't bring in the NHS, that was Labour, I don't think they ever would have brought it in, so I think you're quite right to say they're not its biggest supporters! BUT it is widely and strongly supported and it would be political suicide for them to be seen to threaten it.

In the same way, though, Tory governments of the 1950s and 1960s accepted the nationalization of many industries by Labour in the 40s - that didn't stop Thatcher from privatizing them again in the 80s. These things can shift, given enough ideological gusto.


Help with US vs UK vs Canadian politics.

Being a dual Canadian and US citizen, I keep up with both county's federal politics. Also, being Canadian, I keep an eye on the situation in the UK as well.

To put it simply for American readers, US politics is skewed way way to the Right. Or, to give you an idea...Let's look at the popular news networks in the US.

CNN in the US is seen as a Left Wing media outlet that has little to do with the Government, especially when the Republicans are in power. In Canada, CNN is seen as a Right Wing mouthpiece of the US government. American viewers see Fox News as a Right leaning mouthpiece that has sympathies with the Republicans, especially when they are in power. In Canada, except for the Neo-Cons that are currently running the government and their followers, Fox News is seen as not that different from a propaganda outlet for the US Facists and white supremacists.

Now England, for the most part is even further Left than Canada is...with a resulting change in perception.


Yes, I'm talking in the British sense. We all know that Americans have no class anyway.


Why is that, and what does that mean for social mobility? Is your class set at birth equal to the class of one's parentage or to the trappings of the class to which you're born? Or, if it's determined later, is it a result of societal interaction like education?


One's class is set at birth, based on who your parents are. In this day and age, it doesn't restrict your earning ability as a working class person can either do the traditional thing and get a trade (plumbers earn a fortune here), or if you don't mind lots of debt and have the brains, go to university. You'll earn more as a plumber, though.

Me? I got to go to university at a time when there were grants for such things (guess which party got rid of those) and as an indirect result of that, ended up married to a middle class person. As we have the trappings of a middle class lifestyle, the imaginary children would be perceived as being middle class and would have a middle class set of opportunities.

But as for me, well I don't fit in too well, though I enjoy the benefits. I prefer the basic backstreet boozer to the wine bar, consider the discussion of money to be indecent, and don't really regard what my spouse does to be a proper job, but at least it's not harming anyone.

Anyway, it's Saturday and the pubs are open.


@62: You have to differentiate between voters and actual politicians. The average voting democrat is far too the left of their representatives. Probably somewhere in between Barnie Frank and Dennis Kucinich, while the actual party is closer to Obama.

You can point to the "blue dogs." But Obama/Clinton tandem is more right wing than David Cameron. Who supports universal health care, greater gay equality, less corporate, less pro-war, etc.

You could say this is because of the confines of the political system that they are working in... and that David Cameron would be more right wing in the U.S., while someone like Obama would be more left wing in the UK. But the point is actual policies and the actual policies of the Conservative Party are left-wing than the Democrat Party... because the UK is a lot more left wing.


Thanks for the explanation, enjoy your beer! :)


The average voting democrat is far too the left of their representatives.

I wouldn't say far to the left, but you're right there is a shift. The representatives have to win in the general election, which means they have to be able to appeal to moderate Republicans and independents, not just their own party.

There are more left wing Democratic politicians than you may be aware of. One that I like a lot is Rep. Mike Honda (not my district, unfortunately). I actually don't think of Frank as being that liberal. Kucinich is kind of a loose cannon on the left, but he represents a very liberal district, and he can get away with it forever. It was pretty funny that it took a visit by Pres. Obama to Kuchinich's own district to get Kuchinich to see that it isn't all about him and maybe he really should vote for health insurance reform.

I think you have to account for the direction someone is trying to go, not just where they are starting from. Also, you really have to give Obama credit on health care and on corporate regulation. I'm waiting to see on gay equality, where we've had some nice gestures but not real results yet, and the wars.

BTW, the term "Democrat Party" is used only as an insult by Republicans. The proper name is "Democratic Party".


<{sarcasm}> The need for a coalition government at present reminds me a great deal of an American aphorism from the First War of American Secession (1774-1783, approximately):

"We must all hang together, for we shall surely hang separately."

Frankly, I'm in favor of either for the parasitic "class" of professional politicians (on both sides of the pond): I know too many of them. Either a mass execution or individual ceremonies will do.

Oh, OK, I'll stop inciting violence against politicians... at about the same time they stop inciting violence themselves (and I feel fortunate I don't live in Arizona... or Brixton).<{/sarcasm}>


greg @ 49 yes and if there was any thing other than first the post would the distribution of votes (seats) still look like this? If people voted for what they wanted rather than who they didn't want i.e. tactically, you'd get a lot more minority party votes


Feorag @ 67 Sorry, but dead wrong. My father was the child of a factory worker in Edwardian England, born 1911, and that father, my grandfather died in 1923/4, as a result of the conditions in which he had worked - he was refused entry to the services in 1914, because his health wasn't up to it.... He (my father), too got a grant, and there were not very many around in 1929/30, yet he was as solidly middle-class as you can imagine, and suprisingly right-wing by the standards of the time - today, of course, he'd be regarded as a "leftie". There's also this Left/Right Authoritarian/Libertarian dichotomy discussed elsewhere.....


For electoral reform you need a referendum. The questions that are asked on the referendum are critical to the result and these will be set by the party in power. When Australia voted on a republic the question was not "Do you want an Australian republic" (which had popular support) but "Do you want a republic with a head of state chosen by parliament" which was the more popular option. However the people who wanted a directly elected head of state voted against that as did the monarchists who wanted status quo. The result was no republic even though most people wanted one.

So the questions at a referendum need to be something like: 1. Do you want the voting system changed to some form of proportional representation. 2. Is ATV an acceptable system? 3. Is STV an acceptable system? 4. Nationwide PR with no electorates (choose from lists) (and if you are really courageous) 5. Should every member of the House of Lords be elected? repeat etc.

That should give a clear indication of whether PR is wanted and what system people are happiest with (i.e. these are ATV questions, not FPTP).

Remember that more questions on a referendum muddy the waters. It is easy to campaign on No, No, No or Yes, No, Yes, than Yes, no, yes, yes, no, no, yes.



I think you forgot one very important question on your list:

Should politicians be held liable for any violation of the constitution?

Currently, politicians all over the world answer this question by a resounding: NO!!!

(Instead, any legislation resulting from such infringements will currently be retracted and the offending politician is given another try to hide it into a better shell of legalese. Further consequences for the politician: none.)


In NZ we had two referenda. The first asked two questions:

1) "I vote to retain the FPP voting system / I vote to change to another voting system"

2) "Regardless of how you voted in Part A, if there was a change to another voting system, which votign system would you choose? [MMP / STV / SM / PV]"

The second referendum was a straight runoff between FPP and the winner of that second question, MMP.

In the UK, the politicians sound like they have an idea of the system they want, and will probably skip the first question. Given the process used, that's appropriate - but it runs the danger of an Australian-style rejection: "we want electoral reform, but not this electoral reform".


Oops, meant AV not ATV.


Hopefully, if they eventually agree to a referendum on PR it will: a) be very early on b) consist of different forms of PR, no FPP option at all.

With the conservative nature of the voting public, it would be too easy for Murdoch to get PR voted down.

From the Labour PoV, its probably going to be best to want to be in opposition, no deal with the Libs. That way no PR and no taint of the cuts that are coming up, resulting in a Labour majority when the Tories eventually lose a vote of no confidence, in a year or so.


I have to disagree with Ross Brummet @68's assertion that "less pro-war" is particularly a left-wing trait. At least in the US, the Democrats have seldom been opposed to war, and while the responsibility for the current Middle Eastern wars belongs mostly to the people who are pulling the Republicans' strings, the Vietnam War was mostly a Democratic show, even though it was ostensibly to keep the world safe from Commies. For our neighbors in Latin America, left-wing military dictatorships seem to be almost as common as right-wing ones. (Costa Rica doesn't have a military, but that's not so much because they're peace-lovers as because one of their presidents in the late 1800s realized that the job of a Latin American military was mainly to overthrow the civilian government.)

And as a long-time US Libertarian, I have to share some sympathy with the "imaginary party" troll from the preceding thread; my party wouldn't be able to organize a drinking party in a brewery except that American pubs don't have the British practice of buying rounds, so we don't need to actually cooperate with each other to get our drinks...


What I'd like to see is MPs having their parliamentary pay docked (and, ideally, expenses declined) if they're present for less than X% of the votes in Whitehall. I'm not sure what X should be, I am tentatively in favour of X=75, but even X=50 would cause quite an upsurge in MPs being present.

I'd even go as far as saying that'd make me happier (since I am not allowed to vote for parliament anyway).


Being present for the vote isn't quite the point - the Whips already manage attendance for voting because they want their party to win!

I think it's more important that MPs actually attend and take part in the debates, which are often kept going by a handful on each side, rather than just streaming in when the division bell goes (various sites round Westminster have a feed for the division bell, including, I think, the Red Lion pub in Whitehall and of course the bars in the Palace itself...)

Of course MPs do have other things to do (Committee work, constituents' cases, and so on) so it wouldn't necessarily be valuable to enforce attendance at debates held just for the sake of it. Perhaps there should be fewer but better focussed debates, and more time looking at the detail of legislation (and less legislation).


Don't the Northern Irish idealize "Caledonia" in the way Anglo-Saxons idealize Camelot? I could emigrate to a Scotland of the mind. Also, I did put a smiley face into my punctuation; so it's possible my post was not completely serious. Though my score on the quiz was true.


Bill Stewart @79,

Costa Rica gave up its military in 1949, after a bloody civil war. The Junta which abolished the military was led by the left-winger (even by European standards) and future democratically-elected President José Figueres Ferrer. He claimed to have been inspired to disarm by the socialist sf writer/philosopher HG Wells.

Sorry to ask but I can only think of Sandanistas and Cubans as left-wing dictatorships in Latin America in recent years. Who are the others? I could spend some time compiling a list of the nastiest "our bastard" CIA-supported right-wing, war-mongering, innocent-killing scum dictatorships in that region in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

For about a century the Spanish Empire had no military in South America. When they decided to set one up the British and French attacked them to keep the balance of power. The Spanish proceeded to lose their empire.



Your comments @ 59 and 67 on your life are not that far off from how a lot of Americans, including myself, experience class. And the stagnation in social mobility since 1970 appears to be creating an incipient stable class system, which I deplore. Have you ever considered you might be a US'ian manque? Afterall, we have Main Streets and Halloween over here, unlike your weedy cousins to the south.

As a side note, black face seems to be a secret obsession of the British. In the last forty years I have seen at least a dozen British actors in black face, but only one American (who was playing a guy in 1963.) (Well, also Robert Downey, Jr., but he thinks he can play British characters; so maybe he does not count.)


@83: "For about a century the Spanish Empire had no military in South America. When they decided to set one up the British and French attacked them to keep the balance of power. The Spanish proceeded to lose their empire."

Er, no, not even slightly. Check out Havana naval yard and its significance. Spain could build ships in the WI and nobody else could. It took Trafalgar to beat down Spanish imperial power to the extent that local revolts could succeed.


Don't the Northern Irish idealize "Caledonia" in the way Anglo-Saxons idealize Camelot?

Not at all - we idealise the Ulsters/Northern Irelands/Irelands that have never been and never will be - that's our problem ;)

As an aside - Scotland is Northern Irish in reality (to a degree) a tribe from the North - the Scotti - invaded and colonised it.

As for my reply - sorry, I can get hyper-factual when it come to home turf.


davharris @ #81:

So, make it "voting and debate attendance" (preferably with debate attendance taken at the start and several points during the debate, to make it harder to game). What I want is for MPs not turning up to do their job not getting paid for the job (and, possibly, not get expenses paid).

Imagine an ordinary Joe turning up for only eight hours, three days a week, how long would they last (and I am implicitly assuming a 40-hour, 5-day week here) before being fired? Two weeks? Three?

Of course tehre's the issue of ill health and the like, but I am sure one can build a system to account for that.


MPs have other duties. For one thing, they're representatives; this entails spending time in their constituencies, dealing with constituents' problems and talking to local councillors, etc. For another thing, most MP's constituencies are some distance away from parliament -- my MP has to make a round trip of nearly a thousand miles every week to deal with his weekly constituency surgeries (and have a weekend at home).

We might do better on attendance if we attempted to provide for MPs to vote on issues remotely and monitor or contribute to parliamentary debates and business while travelling. (Skype, anybody?)


Chris Williams @85. Sorry, I meant to write "army" rather than "military"


Bill @79:

Well, it depends on how you use the term left/right. Is it just economics? Or does it go with libertarianism and authoritarianism as well? If you are just separating things on a right-left wing spectrum... I think it's fair to say Stalin was left-wing in economics, while right-wing on the topic of liberty. Now you might find that arbitrary, but honestly if you at the anti-war crowd, I don't know how you can argue that they aren't primarily left-wing. At least historically.

Who are the most famous anti-war people? Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr? Both socialists.

Who is the most cited anti-war intellectual of the last 50 years? It has to be Noam Chomsky.

In Britain, who is the leader of the Stop The War Coalition? Tony Benn.

Here in the U.S., our mainstream media is almost completely pro-war, but the vast majority of the anti-war alternative media is left-wing. Such as Democracy Now. Furthermore who is the most popular anti-war historian? Howard Zinn?

What are the biggest parties in Canada, Spain, Germany, France, and Australia that want to end the Afghanistan war? The NDP, The United Left, The Left, The Socialist Party, The Greens.

You can have right-wing economics and be opposed to war, but it's more rare. Mainly because war is often good for various businesses. While on the other hand it consumes too much money for socialists that want to spend public money on healthcare and schools.

U.S. Democrats are traditionally pro-war, but they are traditionally right-wing economically, so I don't see the point there.


I think your getting class, mixed up with caste. Your born into a caste and it is immutable, you start off in the class of your parents but you can move into another class, social mobility may be hard or easy but it's possiable. Now if the stagnation in social mobility your talking about leads to it being pretty much impossable to change class, and stays that way then it's heading into caste territory.


oops, forgot to put " @84" in there.


Just for the curious: proportional representation can produce hung parliaments, too - as it happend last night in NRW, Germany's biggest state. The final result in seats is CDU/christdemoratic 67, SPD/socialdemocratic 67, Greens 23, FDP/rigthwing-lib 13, LINKE/socialist 11. Neither CDU/FDP nor SPD/Greens nor CDU/Greens has a majority or seats (the last two fall short one seat). And FDP doesn't talk with SPD and Greens. So the only two possible outcomes are:

CDU/SPD - the loser and his biggest concurrent together, and because CDU has 6000 votes more than SPD, it could mean that Rüttgers/CDU, who lost 10%, stays minister president.

SPD/Greens/LINKE - a workable majority, but there is no trust in LINKE at all, especially not with the SPD (half of LINKE is a split faction of SPD)

The irony? Only 2000 votes more for Greens (i.e. 0.1% more) - and SPD/Greens would have had a majority.


I'm told that MPs mostly have TVs in their offices showing BBC Parliament, and listen to debates while they do office work, research, answer emails... It's not necessary to be in the chamber to be impressed or even converted by a speech any more.


Minor pedantic point, but the Major govt allied with the UUP (the "official" unionists, which were slightly more to the centre than the Paisley-let DUP), not the DUP, I think.

As, previously, did Jim Callaghan, after the end of the lib lab pact.


Charlie Stross @ 88: & john @ 94:

Throw in video conferencing (a big screen to be lowered over the Speaker's head when appropriate) and MPs could be sitting in their constituency offices taking part in debates and some way to flag to The Speaker when they want to appear on the big screen (perhaps the big screen would show a suitably sized thumbnail of each of those currently watching at other times). Think of the savings in expenses, etc! Maybe Parliament ought to maintain the Constituency Office directly (part of the local council hall perhaps) rather than the MP sorting it out themselves?

Also ... I read something about talks to introduce eVoting on the back of those annoyed at not being able to vote (doors closed at 10, and running out of voting papers). If such a system was suitably secure for such votes then why not just have everyone vote on all the debates and no need for MPs at all ... hey, not such a bad idea (apart from the "suitably secure" part, obviously!).


I have an education, courtesy of the state, a nice job in a national TV news organisation, and most people call me middle class. I call myself working class, on the basis that if I stop working for a month or two, I lose my home.

There is another social class - the ones that don't need to work at all in order to retain their home(s) - they're called the upper classes.

The middle classes don't really exist - they're just a social invention to make some of the better paid workers feel happier about themselves. Divide and rule, and all that.



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